Posts Tagged by running mistakes

A Matter of HEART

This past week, I finally had the opportunity to travel to South Florida to meet my little niece who was born during Hood to Coast weekend.

LBsquared helloLB + {little}LB. I really was this excited.

For the past 7 weeks, I’ve been listening my sister tell tales about how Leah is the best baby in the entire world. I figured she had to have been exageratting…or at least way too biased to be able to say. One look at this little girl, however, and I knew that the claims were true. She was even more beautiful in person than in photos and had such a sweet personality that I wanted to kidnap her and bring her back to VT with me (minus that whole felony thing). It’s safe to say that this little peanut stole my heart.

…even though she wasn’t exactly thrilled with the hand-knit watermelon hat her Uncle Evan and I picked out for her.

LBsquared hatLeah isn’t so sure she wants to be a part of #teamwatermelon

little peanutHer torso is about the length of my hand. So tiny!

The downside to being in Florida over the weekend was that it meant I’d have to do my last super long run of marathon training away from home. When I first tried to get myself pumped up for this run, I told myself I was in for a treat. I figured that after months of running up and down mountains, my legs would love the pancake-flat terrain.

Only…October in Florida is hot. And super humid. Plus, I somehow managed to forget many of my long run essentials at home – including any sort of water carrying device and all but one gel that just happened to have still been in my backpack from #VTcheeseparty a few weeks ago.

As if I wasn’t already thrown off enough, I woke up before the sun on Sunday morning to 77 degrees and 85% humidity. I debated putting the run off, only to experience a brief moment of panic when I checked the forecast for the next couple of days and saw more of the same. My second thought was to push the run back until I got home on Thursday (today), but with NYC less than 3 weeks away, I knew that wasn’t the best plan. I needed to just suck it up and get this thing done.

So as the sun started rising over my sister’s quiet neighborhood, I set out for what I knew was going to be a very (very) long run.

The second I stepped outside, a wall of humidity hit me in the face. I ran one 5.5 loop around the neighborhood without water before stopping back at the house to pick up the waterbottle that I’d need to carry in my hand for the next 15 miles. 40 minutes into the run and I was already completely drenched.

My plan was to run down to the water (about 5 miles away), run along the ocean-side bike path for a few miles, and turn around and head home. It was flat, I had the beautiful ocean as motivation and some new songs on my iPod to keep me pumped up. I told myself that 15 miles was nothing…and 7.5 miles out before the turn-around point would fly by. I could do that any day of the week.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this run would test every single ounce of willpower I had. I debated stopping a million times in the first hour. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of having to attempt it all over again. The thought of starting the long run from scratch the next day was worse than continuing to power through.

My original goal was to run 22 miles. I covered 20.4…and barely even made it that far.

But I got it done.

I didn’t complete this under-fueled, over-heated long run out of sheer enjoyment, or because I just love running so very much.

Not because I wanted the bragging rights, or the “carb-feasting” rights, or the “sit on my butt and do nothing for the rest of the day” rights.

Not because I felt as though I was being so “OMG-inspirational” for finishing a run under tough conditions.

I didn’t run those miles for the glory, or because I find some sort of strange pleasure in pain.

I didn’t even run all those miles because I believed that running over 20 miles vs. just 18 or 19 was going to make some huge physical difference on race day.

I covered 20.4 slow and painful miles for one reason — because on November 4th, I am going to need every single ounce of mental strength I have to make it to the finish.

(…the thought of this waiting for me as soon as I was done helped too.)

cb poolAll long runs should end in a pool

It’s no secret that my training for NYCM has been less than ideal. Starting from a base of 0 miles is not the best way to work up to a PR marathon, nor is it really all that advisable. Over the last 3.5 months of training, I’ve had many ups and downs; losses and gains.

But I’ve run marathons before. Physically, I know my body can cover the distance. Even if I run slow (or walk part of the way), I know that I will make it to the finish. IF I can find a way to believe, that is.

“Keep your head up. Keep your heart strong” (via Ben Howard). That’s been my motto for this training cycle. When runs have felt slower, harder, and more impossible than they have before, I find myself listening to that song over and over again. Hanging onto that phrase like a lifeline.

That motto has pushed me through tempo runs, up long hills, and most recently, through 20 miles in scorching heat and oppressive humidity.  Every run that I complete is a run that trains my body and my heart. It gives me the strength to keep pushing when the going gets tough and never give up, even when my body starts breaking down.

Mentally tough, physically strong.

words to run by

On marathon day, I may not run the fastest or best race of my life. But I will run with heart. And considering the circumstances, that’s about all I can ask for.

The Problem With Confidence

Confidence is normally a good thing, right? I mean, without it, you don’t get very far. Because it’s only when you have confidence in your ability to be a good runner/student/employee/writer/cook/etc that you actually start succeeding in it.

And it can be interesting to watch your confidence grow as you improve in something, which in turn, feeds your confidence. It’s a never-ending, awesome cycle that builds you up and never lets you down.

Or does it?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence. About how the amount of confidence that you have in yourself can really affect your outlook, as well as your abilities. Too little, and you sell yourself short and don’t live up to your potential. But what about when you have too much?


Over-confidence can lead to just as many pitfalls as not having enough. And I’m not just talking about the braggy-type of over-confidence in your own self worth. I also mean having an over-confidence in your own abilities. In some fields, I’d imagine having too much confidence could be a little dangerous. With running – it just leads to some stupid, painful runs.

My problem with confidence came after a great winter/spring of running. I watched my times improve, and got used to running a certain pace. I became confident in my ability to run fast. The only problem was – I stopped racing as much and training as hard. Yet, for whatever reason, in the back of my mind I still expected my pace to stay the same. Obviously not a logical conclusion, but what can I say. Sometimes I think confidence can drown out logical thought.


And then I started marathon training again. I started logging more miles and longer runs than I had in months. In weather that was hotter and more humid than ever. All-the-while expecting my pace to stay the same. I bet you can all guess where this story is going…

A couple of weeks ago, I had a really tough long run followed by an even tougher race. And all that confidence I had once been feeling drained right away. Although I have to admit that this felt pretty crappy at first, it only took a little bit of reflection to realize this was a blessing in disguise.

Losing my confidence in my endurance/speed made me take a step back and start thinking about things logically. Running is tough, we all know that. Maintaining a certain high level of fitness is tougher. Combine that with crazy heat and humidity, and it’s easy to start feeling even more out of shape than you really are.

So what’s a girl to do in that situation? Since I can’t go back and change the past to make myself do a better job at maintaining my base, I can only change my approach to training.

Adjusting Expectations

Even if I had been a really dedicated runner and kept up a good speed and endurance base over the past couple of months, chances are my pace would have dropped once the heat index started rising. High temperatures and high levels of humidity aren’t exactly a runner’s best friend. In fact, according to Jeff Galloway, your pace starts dropping once the temperature rises above 55 degrees.

The following chart is meant to show how heat impacts your pace. Even though it’s developed for race paces, it gives you a general idea (source):

55-60 degrees – 1% – 8:05
60-65 degrees – 3% – 8:15
65-70 degrees – 5% – 8:25
70-75 degrees – 7% – 8:35
75-80 degrees – 12% – 8:58
80-85 degrees – 20% – 9:35
Above 85 degrees – Forget it… run for fun

Lately temperatures in New England have been 85 – 90 degrees ON TOP OF high humidity. Which means trying to run fast in these conditions is not only extremely difficult, but it’s also kind of dumb.

So yesterday during my long run, I did something a little different. Something smart. Something I should’ve been doing all along.

I started out slow. I stopped caring about my pace and just eased into my run.

slow road.jpg(source)

And you know what? It wasn’t awful. Surprisingly, even though I was dripping wet within a couple of miles, I actually found myself enjoying the run. The first run I’ve really enjoyed in a long time. As the miles went on, I found my mood getting better. By the time I reached double digits I was smiling with excitement just to be out there running. And the best part of it all – I found myself speeding up, without even meaning to.

Was it my fastest run ever? Nope. But I got those miles in. And afterward I gained a little bit of that old confidence in running back (but not too much!).

Sometimes training smart means checking that over-confidence at the door and slowing down. Of course I hope that I’ll be able to speed up once the temperatures cool down (and my endurance gets better), but if slowing down means I’ll be able to get in my long runs and enjoy them, then so be it.


YuKanRun 10 Mile Race Recap

Yesterday, I joined Lizzy and Corey for the YuKanRun Race series 10-mile race in Ipswich, MA. Even though Ipswich is a bit of a drive from Providence, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to run a small-town race on the beautiful North Shore with a couple of friends…not when we had plans to go to the beach afterward, anyway!

Okay, it might seem sort of silly, but the truth is that I’ve started and re-started this post about a billion times. I don’t know why, but for some reason I’m having a hard time talking about the race yesterday, and how I felt.

It isn’t because I wasn’t happy that I made the 1.5 hour drive up to Ipswich to get in my long run with a couple of friends. Or because I wasn’t proud of my overall finish and excited when I got to stand on the podium for an Age Group win (first time I’ve ever gotten to do that!).

Ipswich podium.JPGCorey and I both rocking the running gear that our last wins got us!

And it wasn’t because I didn’t end up having a great day with Corey and Lizzy, and didn’t think the reward of spending time at beautiful Crane’s Beach was worth the pain of an hour and a half of running.

No, the reason why I’m having a hard time writing the post is because the truth is that I was a bit disappointed in myself yesterday. It may sound crazy, since on the surface it appears like the run went really well, but when it came down to it, I didn’t actually achieve the one goal I went into the race with: to have fun and not stress about time.

But even though I may have finished the race feeling a little down, fortunately a few minutes on this beautiful sandy shore was all I needed to sweep the negative thoughts away.

Crane's Beach.JPG

And since I’ve now had time to reflect on the race and move on, I figured that I’d share with you the top 10 lessons the Ipswich 10 Mile race drove home for me.

1.) Small town races can be really fun and much cheaper than the large, popular races, but you do miss out on important amenities.

  • Lack of crowd support
  • Not enough porta-potties before the race
  • Fewer aid stations
  • No chip timing

2.) The thought of missing the start of a race may seem stressful, but when there’s no pressure on the end-result, it actually might not be as awful as you would expect.

There were only 2 porta-potties at the start of this race (see above). And even though there weren’t a lot of runners competing, runners aren’t always in-and-out in a jiffy when they’re nervous. I got in line a full 25 minutes before the race start, and waited, and waited…and waited. Because I had driven so long to get to the race, there was no way I could start running 10 miles without making this quick pit-stop first. So I just accepted it. Luckily, Corey graciously offered to run my things back to the car for me while I was in line, but despite that, the two of us still missed the start. There’s nothing quite like seeing a bunch of runners take off on you while you’re jogging to the starting line.

But, surprisingly enough, it didn’t really phase me. I wasn’t supposed to be racing anyway. So we just laughed about it and ran after everyone, totally relaxed.

3.) However -starting at the back might actually be worse for my pacing than starting up near the front.

Since we started off so far behind everyone, Corey and I just ran without really paying any attention to pace. I figured it was a good thing – not heading out with the leaders meant I wouldn’t feel any pressure to stick with them. Plus, picking off runners was kind of fun, so we fell into a groove, just chatting for most of the first mile. Towards the end, Corey looked down at her watch and realized we were running faster than she had wanted to go. Wisely, she fell back a little bit while my dumb self told her I felt good and was going to keep running. When we reached the first turnaround and I saw that I was the 4th woman despite starting so far back, that stupid little competitive voice I was trying to squash started singing in my head, despite my original intentions.  So I figured I’d just kept running….and see what happened.

4.) The Garmin can be your best ally, but also your worst enemy.

I decided at the beginning of the race that I wasn’t really going to pay attention to my splits and just run because I felt good. As I’m sure you can guess, this ended up being a mistake. The energy of the race combined with starting at the back made me head out way too fast. And then, when I started falling apart after the halfway point, looking at my pace drop so much only served to drive home the negative thoughts, and made it even harder to enjoy the race.

5.) A person cannot expect to be able to maintain their goal race pace without putting in the work.

Yes, I know this should be obvious. But I have this pace in my head that I think I should be able to run, and it’s so easy for me to comfortably fall into it, regardless of whether or not it’s the smart thing to do. However, ever since the Foxboro 5K, I’ve been taking it pretty easy on the running front. I haven’t raced, I’ve run less miles overall, and have done very little speedwork. So even though a 7:15/7:20 mile was pretty attainable a few months ago, I was not in that sort of shape yesterday. If I had been smart, I would have adjusted what I was doing because of that. But even experienced runners can make rookie mistakes sometimes.

Ipswich_group shot.JPG

6.) You should always readjust your expectations when you’re running in the heat.

Most of the race yesterday was in direct sunlight, and the temperature was in the 80s. Combined with the limited aid stations (there were only two!), it made the race a lot harder than it would have been if it were 50 degrees and cloudy. So just picture me stubbornly trucking along at a pace much too fast for my current conditions to maintain, with the sun beating down on me. I’m sure you can guess how that story ends.

7.) Whenever I’m racing, my default is to maintain a pace that is comfortably uncomfortable.

It doesn’t matter if I’m racing to train or racing to PR, when the gun goes off, I immediately fall into a pace that is comfortably uncomfortable. That is, I don’t feel completely relaxed, but I also don’t feel like I’m on the verge of dying. Even when things start falling apart during a race, I have a hard time slipping out of that mode. Yes, my pace was slipping, but since I was in a race (even though I wasn’t racing), I just couldn’t slip into a jog. Might sound silly, but there’s just something ingrained in me after years of racing that prevents it. (Yes, I know I’m not doing myself any favors by stubbornly pushing on sometimes.)

8.) When races aren’t going as planned, everything seems worse in the moment than it really is.

Yesterday I felt like I crawled through the second half of the race. I felt so tired and awful that I could swear my shuffled stride was moving no faster than a walk. But looking back over my splits – things weren’t really that bad. Yes, I didn’t run smart, but I didn’t really fall apart as completely as I had thought. The thing is, when your emotions are already heightened, and you’re already feeling exhausted, it’s easy to start being dramatic about it in your own head.

9.) When you feel like you have nothing more to give, you can always dig deep and find just a little bit more.

The last 3 miles of the race yesterday seemed to stretch on forever. My mind agonized over the distance I had left, and all I was thinking about was stopping to walk. Which doesn’t usually happen. I know many people find the run/walk method helpful, but I have never been able to successfully walk through a race (probably because I don’t actually use the method correctly, but that’s another story…). Once I start walking, all motivation to finish goes out the window. I still don’t really know why I felt so low yesterday, but I do know that I haven’t felt that bad during the race since the Cape Cod Marathon last October.

But in my lowest moment, when I wasn’t sure I could push for a minute longer, I changed the way I was thinking, employed every mental strategy to get through sucky runs that I had at my disposal, and dug deep. I broke the run down into small little pieces, and made it all the way to the finish line.

10.) Yes, running sucks sometimes, but every single run you push through makes you stronger.

I’m not going to lie, having two really tough long runs in a row is a bit hard on the psyche. And it can be hard to get past the fact that struggling through a 10 mile run can leave you with a lot of doubts about your ability to get through 26.2. But I’ve done it before. I know that training in the summer can be really tough. I know the heat makes runs feel harder, and I know that I have a lot of time before I toe the line in October. Every time I push through a tough run, I become stronger physically and mentally. And ultimately, it’ll give me the tools I need to run a successful marathon.


Even though things didn’t go exactly as planned, I am really happy I got to participate in yesterday’s YuKanRun race. And any race that leaves you with a medal at the end is ultimately a success…especially when you least expect it!

Ipswich medal.JPG

Final Results

Time: 1:15:39   Average Pace: 7:34/mile  Place: 1/29 females

Mile splits:

  1. 7:37
  2. 7:18
  3. 7:20
  4. 7:26
  5. 7:26
  6. 7:52 (i.e. where Lauren starts to fall apart)
  7. 7:48
  8. 7:49
  9. 7:56
  10. 7:35
Corey and I ended up tacking on an easy 3 miles after the race to bring our total mileage up to 13 for the day. In the end, if I had to suffer through those 13 miles, I would’ve much rather suffered through with friends. :)

Thanks for the pictures Lizzy!

What {Not} to do the Week of a Big Race

A little over one year ago today, I was getting ready for the Shape Up Half Marathon, my first ever Half. That week, I rested, hydrated, and did all the things you’re supposed to do when you have a big race on the horizon. I even wrote a nice long post about how to prepare for a big race to show what a good little runner I was being.

Today, I’m getting ready to take my second shot at that same half marathon. I’d like to tell you that this passing year has left me feeling wiser, faster, and even better prepared for my second time around. But of course, that would be a lie…

You may not have even realized that I’m running a race in two days. Don’t feel bad – I’ve been living in denial. Since my approach to this year’s race is somewhat…umm…different…I figured it was only fair to show you what I’ve been doing this time around. Think of this as a Part II to my What to do the Week of a Big Race Post, the what NOT to do part.

What {Not} to do the Week of a Big Race

1.) {Don’t} Ignore the fact that you even have a race and pretend that as long as you don’t think about it, Sunday will never come

2.) {Don’t} Start trying to work lifting back into your exercise routine because you realize that while your marathon has left you in great cardiovascular shape, you’re feeling pretty weak in every other area.

3.) {Don’t} Eat copious amounts of Easter candy and any other delicious dessert that seems to be calling your name, everywhere you turn.


4.) {Don’t} Suddenly plan to move out of your current apartment, and then spend every ounce of spare time you have that week preparing for the big move. (yes, I know, I moved last summer and now I’m moving again. It’s a long story)

5.) {Don’t} Have your boyfriend make you a packing and to-do list for the week, only to leave out one important detail – the actual race.

movetodoSunday: Clean, Pack Bathroom. ….oh, and run 13.1 miles

6.) {Don’t} Start losing sleep over the fact that you have so much to get done before the end of the week….and because you’re staying up late trying to watch all your favorite shows (because when else are you going to have the time to get caught up on last night’s emotional Office??)

7.) {Don’t} Stop eating any and all fresh produce because you’re moving soon and you don’t want to buy new groceries.

8.) {Don’t} Incorporate new foods into your diet because they were sent to you, look delicious, and let’s face it – given the current state of your fridge, it’s either that or condiments for dinner.

lightlifesamplesLightlife was generous enough to send me these samples to try out for the blog. Full review to come.

9.) {Don’t} plan to spend the entire day before the race finishing up the packing, cleaning the apartment, and hauling the first of many loads over to your new place.


10.) {Don’t} think about the fact that the longest run you’ve done since your marathon (which was a month ago) has been a not so great 10-miler last Friday. And that you’ll need to run more miles in this one race than the total mileage you’ve done in some of the weeks leading up to it. (minor details…)

I can honestly say that this is the least prepared I’ve felt for a race in a very long time. This isn’t something I’m exactly proud of – I signed up for this race and knew it was coming. But there are times in life when, for whatever reason, training takes a backseat. When what used to be one of the most important aspects of your day becomes something you simply don’t have time, energy, or motivation to do.  And I’m trying to make my Type A perfectionist self be okay with that. I have {almost} convinced myself that this race is just going to be for fun. Now I know at this point you’re probably shaking your head thinking: we’ve all heard that line before and look how that turned out, but this time I’m serious. I’m not expecting a great time and I’m not even expecting to feel awesome the entire way. I just want to enjoy running through the streets of my city, and get in one final training run for the Cape Relay next weekend (oh yes, another race I sort of forgot about…). Is this the smartest plan? Maybe not. But I made these decisions and I’m owning it. And I’ll own whatever happens on race day too.


Tapering for Dummies

The marathon taper: that crazy period 3 weeks before a big race when you start cutting back on mileage, ramping up the carbs, and obsessively checking the race day weather. During this time, it’s typical for many runners to start experiencing the taper tantrums – a non-fatal condition that convinces you that you just might be coming down with a horrible medical condition, mystery injury, or an incurable case of lead legs.

Taper tantrums are pretty awful, but believe it or not, they can be avoided. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that these tantrums are soley for amateurs. And with some {not so} careful planning, any dummy can avoid them. Fortunately for all you HOTR-readers, I’ve got the answers. What follows is a 10 Step Guide that has been carefully compiled over years of field research. Read, and then feel free to thank me later.

The {ontherun} Guide to Preventing Taper Tantrums*

i.e. Tapering for Dummies

1.) Carbo-load like a King

This is your excuse to eat every single carb in sight. But choose wisely — who needs pasta when there’s Easter candy and delicious cookies?? Gobble away – your muscles need glycogen after all.

cookies jelly beans

2.) Celebrate the short runs

Get out for a few really short runs and use your renewed energy to blow by all those newbie runners that have suddenly come out of the woodwork with the nicer weather. You are a marathon runner and the world needs be in awe of what great shape you’re in! Don’t you dare let one of those newbies pass you – you’d never live it down.


3.) Don’t work too hard

Use your upcoming marathon as an excuse to get out of unpleasant tasks, including but not limited to, daily work responsibilities, household chores, and even showering. If you live alone, it’s time to train your dog to start pulling his weight around the house.



4.) Spend extra quality time with the couch

This is the one time in your life when it’s socially acceptable to sit around like a lump. Celebrate by staying up late watching all your favorite TV shows. There’s no time for sleep when there’s this much quality programming to catch up on!


5.) Watch out for that scale

…it’s probably telling you lies. There’s no way you could’ve gained a couple pounds this week. After 16+ weeks of training, your body is a carb-burning machine! But you can’t run the risk of having those pounds weigh you down – skip a meal or two to shed them ASAP.



6.) Throw patience out the window

This week, it’s okay to tell people they are annoying you. In fact, feel free to snap at anyone and everyone for the smallest reason. Don’t they know you’re under a lot of stress these days?? You’re training for a flippin’ marathon!

leave me alone i'm tapering.png


7.) Dominate the conversation

Who cares what mundane things your co-workers are doing with their free time. I’ll bet it’s not nearly as cool or brag-worthy as running a marathon. Start steering every conversation back to your upcoming feat. “Oh, you got a new couch? Good for you Bill. Have I mentioned I’m running a marathon??” Now is also the time to use your race as the perfect excuse to get out of lame social engagements. “Oh, sorry, I can’t go out to dinner with you guys tonight – I’m resting up for a marathon.”

8.) Work those biceps

You want to look good in those marathon photos don’t you? Use the extra time you’re not running to ensure that you will have rippling muscles by race day.

muscle shirt.jpg


9.) Ruminate

It’s important to be mentally prepared. Which means you should be thinking about that race non-stop. If you’re not stressing, something is wrong. And if you somehow find yourself getting too anxious, cope by eating more carbs (see number 1).


10.) Shout it from the roof tops

Finally, once you’ve attained the level of taper-awesomeness that’s inevitable after following the above steps, it’s time to share it with the world. Tweet it, Facebook it, blog about it — tell everyone how truly awesome you are at tapering. Not only do you run marathons, but you taper like a champ.

awesome shirt.jpg


And there you have it. The foolproof HOTR-guide to tapering. Follow these steps and you will surely be ready to dominate on race day**.


*There is no guarantee that the {ontherun} guide to tapering will actually lead to success. Follow at your own risk.

**Okay, so maybe you shouldn’t follow these steps exactly. In fact, if you’re smart, you should probably do the exact opposite of everything I’ve said. But where’s the fun in that?


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